Unraveling Religious Abuse in Blog Comments
Every month I get a few comments on this website that are spiritually abusive. By that, I mean they use God or the Bible or Christian teachings, not to build up and encourage anyone in this community as Christ’s representatives would do, but rather to tear down, condemn, and shame people who aren’t like them or who think differently than they do.
I usually just delete them and move on. I will read about 1-2 sentences, and as soon as I see that the comment is venomous, it goes in the trash. Life is short. I don’t have time for that.
But sometimes, if the comment has some really juicy examples of gaslighting and abuse, I like to pull them out as examples for my community so they can learn how to recognize spiritual abuse. When we don’t know what it is, and our younger parts have been brainwashed into believing that sentences with words like “body of Christ” and “God’s perfect Word” and “eternal soul” and “Spotless redeemer” mean that God is in the room, those parts can get triggered and gaslit all over again.
I want to do my part to neutralize the religious venom. Because guess what? The most Christ-like people I know don’t use those words. The most loving people I know don’t talk above people. The most humble Christians I know don’t act like they are right and everyone else is wrong.
They are walking side by side with people, just like Jesus did, entering INTO the pain and anger and sorrow of others.
But religious snakes are coiled up above people spitting out venom on the sinners below. And I hope that imagery serves to alert you when you see or hear highfalutin religious language. Those words do NOT mean God is in the room. It’s more likely that the enemy, who presents as an angel of light, is gaslighting you.
So let’s look at a recent example of religious gaslighting. This comment is written by someone who works for Focus on the Family, and it came in on my article “Is a Woman’s Sin of Swearing Worse Than a Man’s Sin of Abuse?’
The body of Christ and myself grieve and pray for your soul! You are directly contradicting Gods perfect Word. Bring this to the Lord in prayer. If you were hurt by churches in the past, you need ministerial help and counseling. It does not give you authority to lead vulnerable women into willful sin thinking unwholesome talk is acceptable. Ephesians 5: “There must not be any bad language or foolish talk or dirty jokes. They are out of place. Instead, you should give thanks“. All Christians myself included who continue on blatantly sinning are blinded by pride and need to repent. I’m not perfect, but I’m saying this out of love for your eternal soul. This is a dangerous line to be walking. You are doing exactly what those churches did to you, leading them towards the wide road to destruction, away from our spotless redeemer, Christ! Again I grieve for you, hope you repent and I pray for you deeply!
First of all, if you go and read the article she was commenting on, you will notice that she is giving a PERFECT example of exactly what the article is talking about. I almost thought it was a spoof at first. Like, maybe she was trying to be funny? But nope. This woman was dead serious. The spiritual blindness is absolutely fascinating but also provides a layer of irony to the article, so I didn’t delete it.
Instead, I asked the members of my private Flying Free community, all women who have experienced profound spiritual abuse and trauma in their lives, to take up the challenge and unravel it. And wow, they did an amazing job. I want to share some of their thoughts.
Survivor One wrote:
I’ve undergone some spiritual abuse in my past and this is very familiar. At one time I saw things very differently by skewed deceptive preaching. Why on earth is she grieving and praying for your soul? She should be grieving over the leadership. Matthew 18 tells us not to go to a counselor (although there is great wisdom with a multitude of counselors the Bible says) but to go directly to the person first, then bring someone with you then bring it to the church. Not take the blame and say it’s your fault. We are called to be light bearers to expose sin not hid sin. Yes, you may need counseling but you’re not facing hell for encouraging women to get healthy, thinking on truth, not man’s rules/lies. She should see how what these people are saying lines up with Scripture. That’s Biblical. How is anything that you said foolish talk?
Survivor Two (who is such a delight and keeps us constantly in stitches) wrote:
“The body of Christ and myself grieve and pray for your soul! “
Translated: You know, us REAL Christians. STOP EXPOSING OUR BRAINWASHING TECHNIQUES! THIS IS OUR LIVELIHOOD! 🤬
“You are directly contradicting Gods perfect Word. Bring this to the Lord in prayer. If you were hurt by churches in the past, you need ministerial help and counseling. “
Translated: You obviously need help. The “other people” hurt you and it is obvious you need help as you have gone off the deep end.
“It does not give you authority to lead vulnerable women into willful sin thinking unwholesome talk is acceptable.“
Translated: Only WE have the authority in our self-appointed ministerial counseling to tell people what to do. Now, get in line and REPENT dammit.
Ephesians 5: “There must not be any bad language or foolish talk or dirty jokes. They are out of place. Instead, you should give thanks“.
Lady, there are more sincere thanks being given to God in Natalie’s program than you can ever imagine. Big huge BADASS thankful lists!
“All Christians myself included who continue on blatantly sinning are blinded by pride and need to repent. “
I’m confused. Are you making a confession in the middle of this dressing down?
“I’m not perfect, but I’m saying this out of love for your eternal soul.”
Translated: Jedi-mind-trick. I am totally judging you, but since I started out saying “I’m not perfect”, you won’t notice.
“This is a dangerous line to be walking. “
Translated: You will BURN IN HELL!
”You are doing exactly what those churches did to you, leading them towards the wide road to destruction, away from our spotless redeemer, Christ! “
“Again I grieve for you, hope you repent and I pray for you deeply!”
Translated: YOU AREN’T LISTENING TO ME!
Survivor Three wrote:
- so far I am only badas_ . I need more time and effort to earn my last S.
- I feel so sad for her and the controlled life she lives, likely not truly knowing the Jesus we love.
- re: Eph 5 and the bad language, dirty jokes or foolish talk…perhaps she and her employers should speak to, pray over and deal with not only my husband and his porn but so many of the other men referenced here in FF?
- and (quote from original article) “There are Christians who are largely unaware of current cultural norms and are therefore unable to relate to, enter into, or hold space for all the people who live inside of that culture. This is actually something they have the opportunity (and responsibility – especially if they are a pastor) to grow in“…..
- They can only relate to those who will wholeheartedly submit to their culture, and manipulate and abuse those of us seeking real truth and love in relationship; refusing to recognize any culture that is different than theirs.
Survivor Four wrote:
I’m trying to figure out what you are supposed to repent for doing. Was it for contradicting God’s word (you simply quoted some verses) or for promoting unwholesome talk (explaining the nuances of badass)? She clearly stated what she needed to repent from “blatantly sinning and being blinded by pride.” Then, she proves this blinding pride by being able to discern your eternal destiny….watch out for eternal destruction, Natalie. Be afraid, be very afraid. You are heading down a slippery, wide path and taking boatloads of vulnerable women with you. I wonder what “white-washed-tombs” would have translated into in today’s culture? I’m guessing it would be far worse than “badass”. You kinda have to feel sorry for this poor soul who is wasting so much time grieving over nothing.
Survivor Five wrote:
The body of Christ and myself grieve and pray for your soul! — how does she know what the whole body of Christ grieves for? How arrogant. She is joining herself with supposedly all believers to try to give more impact to what she is saying, and the exclamation mark is a nice touch.
This is my favourite line: I’m not perfect, but I’m saying this out of love for your eternal soul. This is false humility. Of course, she is not perfect, she is human and besides why is this about her? I thought it was about her dislike of the word badass. The second part implies that you will lose your eternal soul if you say badass, so she is basically saying she is God. She gets to decide what makes or breaks your eternal soul without even being in relationship with you? Hmm interesting. So she is not perfect but she can play God.
I found that cathartic. I can think lots of things in my head but am not usually confident to actually confront a bully. It does something empowering in me to pick this apart and build some assertiveness muscles. Maybe someday I will actually be able to confront someone in person like a real badass!
Survivor Six Wrote:
I just want to add something I noticed about her model. Her thought is something along the lines of, “You should not be using “bad language, dirty jokes, foolish talk” – and yet, her result is that she is doing that very thing to you! Funny how the very scripture she is using against you is the one she is guilty of – her words are foolish and don’t reflect the heart of Christ.
Jesus Christ wrote:
13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. 
15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.
23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!
33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.
How ’bout we just let Jesus have the last word?
I’ll add my voice to the collective FF sisterhood! I’ve been a member of Natalie’s program for over two years. Just to clear up any confusion ~ not because the program didn’t “work” fast enough for me, but because I love this community so much I can’t imagine my life without it! I have found “my people”. As a forty-something year old, I am finally taking responsibility for my own life and growing into emotional, mental and spiritual adulthood. A huge part of that process has been fine tuning my discernment.
One of the key aspects of Flying Free is learning to think for yourself, including what you read and process within the group. Natalie (and the survivor members) never tell any of us what to do. If we ask for advice, for perspective, for some help challenging our thoughts or beliefs ~ it’s always given in a spirit of Love, not judgment, condemnation or condescension. EVER. Sometimes we want Natalie or one of the coach’s in the program to just tell us what to do! But the whole point is to learn to connect to the Holy Spirit and the wisdom God has already given us that we have been blinded from seeing because of spiritual control and abuse.
The survivor’s comments above echo my own thoughts about this kind of comment. One thing I’ll add to the observations ~ ever notice when people respond like this to advocates there is typically a mention of vulnerable women and leading them astray? “It does not give you authority to lead vulnerable women into willful sin…”
I don’t know whether to laugh or be offended by this overused line? As if we survivors are weak-minded, blind little sheep children who need spiritual mommies and daddies to boss us around lead us at all times. Or else we will fall prey to every whim and perspective out there that is not within the confines of whatever that particular person’s doctrine, beliefs, translations of scripture define to be true. Survivors are actually the strongest people I know, and the depth of their wisdom, encouragement and love has literally kept me alive when the “Christians” around me turned on me instead of supporting me.
You know who taught me how to be a vulnerable sheep who needed to be constantly herded, fenced in, spoon fed rules, warnings, and beliefs? Who shined a spotlight on my blind spots (that I willingly reflected on and wanted to change!) and ignored or downplayed my strengths, gifts and the hard-earned wisdom I gleaned from waking up and coming out of the fog of abuse? The Church (religious institution, not the invisible church, little “c”). It’s easier to control people when you tell them that thinking for themselves is outside the box, and the authority belongs to a select few. Easier to keep them zero’d in on your doctrines and interpretations when you bombard them with fear and concern over their very souls. Who do these people think that they are? Genuine question. One I ponder often.
I highly doubt this woman is grieving over and praying deeply for Natalie. Maybe? But doubtful. She’s probably moved onto the next blog, correcting and throwing her spiritual authority around. (What are her creds and where did she get her authority from?) Part of seeing through the cognitive dissonance is recognizing “Christianese snark” when you see it. Are we survivor ladies snarky? Some of us are (myself included! Shout out to Survivor 2 and your wit! I love that woman like a sister!!) If that is a turn off, I understand. But what I hope anyone reading this will see ~ years of this kind of intense condescension, fear mongering and “correction” will drive a woman to be righteously angry, and some of us deal with that using humor. It’s more honest in my opinion that the lofty spiritually dressed up language in such comments. I have a handful of people in my life like this, people who are so mean-spirited and arrogant behind their constant “challenging” and “spurring on” in the faith. It’s a flavor of snark, and sometimes you answer a fool according to his/her own folly.
Back to discernment…. if you’re reading this blog you’ve probably come across Sheila Gregoire’s Bare Marriage blog. One thing I appreciate so much about Sheila is the way she has joined in advocating for survivors and calling out the spiritual abuse. I find it ironic that a person from Focus on the Family took the time to “admonish” Natalie after the organization dodged a legitimate call out from Sheila (backed by her survey of 20,000 Christian women) for promoting the harmful book Love and Respect. It’s a whole “thing”. Specifically here https://baremarriage.com/statement-in-response-to-focus-on-the-familys-statement-regarding-me/
But there are more concerns here
Perhaps they should spend more time reflecting on what they are doing to help (or harm!) women in destructive marriages rather than seeking out advocates to henpeck, advocates with true and noble hearts who are actually doing the work, in community, with Love.
Love this! Thank you!